Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Suntarded and THE BANK DICK (78)

It has been three days of furnace like heat here in San Francisco. Just muggy, blazing heat that has pushed sweat from my pores in record amounts. I can't remember a moment over the course of the last three days where I haven't felt the cooling trickle of sweat dripping down some part of my body. This has brought about a couple of realizations:

1. I work with coffee, and thus my hands are usually covered with some sort of espresso related goo. Thus when the heat starts and the sweat starts, this sort of brown ooze begins to trickle off my hands. Yesterday afternoon as I was dutifully pounding away at this little computer of mine, I looked down and there was a puddle of coffee and sweat pooled where my hands had been resting. All I could do was sit and watch it seep in to the stained white cover that rests atop my keyboard. Disgusted might be a proper definition.

2. I'm worthless when the heat sets in. I spent all day yesterday, floating atop a drippy lake of sweat, mouthing the words "I'm so hot" to any one who'd listen. I'd conjured up my usual daily list of errands and planned on accomplishing each and all, but as soon as I stepped out in to the sweltering heat, my plans for the day changed drastically. What had been a multi-stop errand bonanza quickly turned in to a two-part journey: milkshake, beer, flee from heat. All were accomplished and then I returned to the Safari (Alex and I's room) and once again, mouth sticky from chocolate, floundered in the sultry excess of the day.

3. Hot nights are the best. Alex and I strolled through The Mission last night and everybody, EVERYBODY was out on the streets. Bike riding, beer drinking, carousing, just enjoying the balmy respite. This sun-baked community that emerges in the midst of heat always inspires me, as much as a cold evening by ones lonesome, collar turned against the wind, always depresses me. All we did was walk, through streets still leaking the day's heat, but being apart of the crowds enjoying the evening's warm embrace, was just another reminder of how happy I am to be where I am.

Old comedy is a strange concept. What we find funny these days, no matter what anyone says, is completely different than what we found funny ten years ago, let alone seventy years ago. Couple this with my brother's long ago dismissal of W.C. Field's classic The Bank Dick (78) and I wasn't exactly excited for this film. I've struggled through a good deal of 1930s and 1940s comedies in my day, and it's a hit-and-miss sort of endeavor. Sometime the snappy dialogue and sort of slap stick vibe that courses through so many of them blows your mind, and sometimes your just staring at a bunch of amateur theater actors, completely baffled that people once laughed at this.

The Bank Dick (78) surprised the hell out of me. Sure, it's certainly dated in terms of its comedic form. W.C. Fields was a vaudeville legend turned short-film comedian turned comedic legend and you can see all of this at work in the film. W.C. Fields plays Egbert Souse, a drunken know-it-all who generally stumbles around, falling in to various situations and somehow managing to lie his way to fame and fortune. It's really just a loose narrative cobbled together to give Fields a chance to showcase his humor. I mean the film jumps from Fields as an unemployed, well, souse, to Fields as an ad hoc film director, to Fields as a hero, to Fields as a bank security guard, to Fields as a multi-millionaire. To say the least, story is not the strong point of the film.

But you know what? It doesn't matter. Fields is hilarious in most scenes. He plays this sort of loveable drunk who's always causing problems while spitting out these classic one liners. I can't imagine that the W.C. Fields of real life and the W.C. Fields of his films were much different, he just seems so at ease in this sort of loveable lout. I found myself chuckling more than once not only at his delivery but at his ability to take simple props and use them as parts of his routine. He's almost Kramer-esque in his shocked flailing as well. He'll bump in to a person or a tree or a bench and just flail in this subtle brilliant way. I couldn't help but chuckle every time.

The strangest part about the film was how there's words used, English words and phrases, that I've never heard before. Just strings of syllables that in the late 1930s must've meant something, but today, nothing. Just babble. Shocked the hell out of me.

This was a pleasant surprise. And I'm actually a bit excited to tear through the six W.C. Field's shorts that make up the next Criterion selection.


wescoat said...

It was actually the shorts I watched and didn't particularly enjoy. Never seen the Bank Dick.

t.d.g said...

you seen any fatty arbuckle?